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>> the next, author and lecturer
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steven johnson, bestselling science writer talks about the cyberworld, popular culture in computer networking as a political tool. mr. johnson is the author of eight nonfiction natural history of innovation" and "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age". >> steven johnson, in your newest book "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age," you use the term pier progressive. what is that? >> guest: my attempt to come up with a term for this new political philosophy that i see emerging all-around me. the book is a serious story about people trying to change the world and advance progress and who don't complete refit the existing model that we have between the democrats and republicans and they believe in many ways that the way that the
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internet was built, the way that the web was built and things like wikipedia were built using collaborative peer network for people and coming together and openly collaborating and building ideas, that is the tremendous engine for progress and growth. but it doesn't involve big government and doesn't involve capitalism. when you believe in this kind of system you don't believe in the traditional painters of the left or the right. i felt it was time we had a category to describe these people, so here progressive is what i came up with. >> host: post central authority, posted a decentralized authority. >> the way that the internet was built and the way the web was built, partially the result of visionary government funding
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which we have heard a lot about since the early days from there was funding that came to the government. the internet was built by loose collaborative networks without any traditional leaders, without any bureaucrats and built by people who were not actually working for big private corporations and free of the building on each other's ideas and refining those ideas and sharing them. this is one of these things if we did in having this conversation 40 years ago you would say that is a lovely utopian idea and it would work well in a commune in california when you are making baskets but this is the way the internet was built and the way the web was built and the lot of technology underlying the entire world was built. we can now point to that collaboration sometimes called your production, the structure of the peer network and say it
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works. it build things that are globally important and have transformed the world. >> host: what connects them? you wrote in "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" to via pier progressive is to believe in the power of markets, to be a pier progressive is to believe the key to continued progress lies in building your networks in as many regions of modern life as possible. with a need arises in society issued building peer network. >> guest: peer progressives believe in the power of markets because when it works well is it a decentralized course. this is a principle that i take very seriously from a libertarian school of thought which is that a decentralized system will outperform a top-down conceptually planned
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system. this is an insect from the austrian economist hayek. the world is so complicated, because of the economy is so complicated, the city is so complicated, trying to understand it is too hard for a small group of centrally located planners to be able to do that. no individual person has to understand the whole thing. the market works because everyone understands a little bit of it. >> host: milton friedman's pencil. >> buying and selling and creating, the totality of these agents coming up with new solutions meeting people's needs. networks are a peer market where peer progressives defer from traditional libertarians is we
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don't think markets solve every problem in society. there are many facets of human experience that are not necessarily solve by markets. markets create their own problems. there are a lot of companies trying to build a global network that would unite computers around the world and they all failed compared to this open source peer produce solution of the internet and the web and wikipedia and other things. there are places you can use that without it involving traditional market relations and that is what peer progressives are trying to do. >> host: what is the chicken done? >> guest: the book starts with an opening preface in society,
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to understand, and in -- misinterpret where they come from. aviation safety, it has become astonishingly -- in a commercial airplane. it is this extraordinary thing. but we don't hear that much about it because there is this bias in the media and in our own minds against stories of steady incremental progress, where something in society gets better 1% or 2% year which over time, amazing breakthroughs. the headline of this thing is 1% better than last year is the most boring new site in the world so people don't write about it. when the plane goes down, when the plane doesn't go down something to report, we don't hear about that. in the book i talk about
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associated by commercial airplane you are more likely to be elected president of the united states than to survive a commercial airplane crash. the example i give in the book is a story of the miracle on the hudson. i am winding my way to the chicken gun. when the u.s. air flight when did in the hudson and everyone survived by father was very telling how the media chose to cover this event. there are two ways they covered it. first there was the super hero pilot who indeed was an amazing pilots and did an amazing job and this language of the miracle on the hudson, like the super natural event. what people didn't focus on nearly enough was the plane. the plane performed admirably during this event and it did so in a couple levels.
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when the geese collided with the jet engine they didn't explode, didn't shatter or send shards of titanium causing the plane to break down. that is partially because every jet engine that is on every model of jet engine on any commercial aircraft is tested with this thing called the chicken gone where they sit and they fire frozen chicken carcasses into a spinning jet engine to make sure it can handle life without exploding and shattering. that is your taxpayer dollars at work. this is a government initiative and everyone on that plane was very glad those chickens were tested to make sure those engines could survive. the other thing going on was the in in survive and kept the enough power to power the electronics. that enables the flyby wire system in the airbus 320 to give sullenberger all the systems
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which were key to his success and the flyby wire system was developed by nasa, and the airbus models it in the 320 and it was a huge part of the success of that landing but because there wasn't a single hero to point to we didn't -- you can't put a thousand engineers on the cover of time magazine so you put one person on the cover of time magazine but so often, tinkering and improving and modifying with thousands of mines working on a problem like how the make an airplane, really what is responsible for the progress we have in society. this is what i try to do with a lot of books, to tell stories of group collaboration where people come from different backgrounds and work to make the world better place. >> host: you write i suspect in the long run the media bias
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against stories of incremental progress may be more damaging than any bias the media displays towards the political left or right. >> i have a social studies quizzes of other key indices of social health over the last 20 or 30 years and the question to the reader is how do you think we have been ferrying as a society in the united states on different points on everything from violent crime to divorce rates to automobile fatalities to air pollution, 10 or 15 of these things and every single one of them over the last 20 years there has been dramatic positive change, in many cases 40% over that period. we just don't hear about that particular side of our society because for whatever reason it is not newsworthy. you are more likely to get attention by telling a story of
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slow and steady climb than was slow and steady progress. it may be that there is a bias in our own mind which the news media just reflecting. one thing i came across in this book when i was researching that shocked me was crime. the story of crime in the united states the last 20 years may be the most extraordinary social development in that period, incredibly optimistic story. it is amazing, new york has attention of the number of murders it had in 1990. this is generally a national trend with incredible improvement. that is something the media has reported a little bit. the tipping point, you do see stories about the new york success story, but for the last
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five years gallup has been asking is crime getting better or worse? despite that coverage and despite the positive news more americans think crime is getting worse year after year even though it is not true. people just assume things have gotten worse even when the evidence is staring them in the face. >> host: you alluded to this earlier, you do have this scene in most all of your books and this points it ou from "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age," most new movements are this way. hundreds of thousands of individuals in groups working in different fields in different locations start thinking about change using a common language without necessarily recognizing those shared values. start falling your own vector propelled along by the people in your media vicinity and one day look up and realize all those individual trajectories have
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turned into a wave against network of human intelligence. >> guest: it is the theme of all the books bus "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" is most pronounced because the fun thing about "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" is it is about something that hasn't fully happened yet. is an emerging movement that doesn't even full the have a name which is why i am trying to figure a way to describe it but you do get that point as an observer where you can look around and start to say i am seeing interesting people working on projects and in the case of "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" people working in cities or things like patent reform or new ways to fund prescription drugs or experimenting with new ways to collaborate on the internet so it is a lot of different fields and the book is made of
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different stories of different fields and it is still very early in the game with all these developments so "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" is kind of a short book. i wrote it not to be fully comprehensive but amplify those voices and celebrate what they were doing and inspire other people to build on this. >> host: from your book "where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation" published in 2010 the history of being spectacularly right as a shadow history lurking behind it, much larger history of being spectacularly wrong again and again and not just wrong but messy. error often creates a past of having -- leads you out of your comfortable assumptions. being right? in place. being wrong forces you to explore. >> guest: there's an interesting study number of years ago bout
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scientific papers by scientists who had made significant breakthroughs at some point in their career and what they're publishing pattern was over the course of the career. they compared that to scientists who ended up not having real breakthroughs the publish the law but didn't really change, didn't have a disruptive idea. what they found was you can judge this by looking at the citations of each paper and how many times each paper was cited by other papers because all this stuff is online now and archived and what they found was the innovators, the ones who had profound new ideas had this interesting pattern where they have a lot more failed papers and published them, far more
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volume to their work and a huge number of those papers never went anywhere and every now and then there would be one that was an incredible breakouts, most of the time starting out, a short little groundouts whereas the non innovative thinkers who hadn't had the real disruptive idea were just hitting singles and were much more consistent, they were not swinging for defense. the argument is to really be successful in a new way to open the new possibility in your field whether it is science or some other field you have to have this failure and error. that is what makes me see in silicon valley that there is a
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tremendous willingness, almost embrace failure. if you are an entrepreneur and have not had one fails startup people will get you strangely. you are supposed to have tried it and missed because that means you're taking risks. venture capitalism is predicated than 90% of investments will be failures and the huge successes. one of the things governments have to be better at, i talk about it a little bit in "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age," you have to have a sense of experimentation. when you experiment you get things wrong, go backwards or go down false leads and you built up the acceptance of failure as part of the problem. >> host: in "where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation" you have seven ways of innovating. you call them adjacent possible
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liquid networks, serendipity, error, expectation and platforms. if we could look at the last two what is expectation? >> guest: thank you for not making me remember all seven of them. expectation is a very profound concept with a very awkward word. it is claimed by the late evolutionary theorist stephen jay gould many years ago and they were talking in the context of evolution, a word that i should think is brilliantly applicable to innovation in technology and science and many fields and the idea is this -- in evolution there are many cases where a feature or 8 freight that evolve for one
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particular purpose turns out serendipitously to be good at something else when something in the environment changes. fetters we think evolve for originally for thermal regulation to keep their owners warm. some creatures that evolve these fetters decided to adopt a new life sign of flying and the ones with the others were better at it than of the ones that didn't have fenders and at that point of aleutians starts to sculpt feathers to make a more aerodynamic. we can see this in modern birds with perfectly symmetrical fedders so they are still just keeping them warm and flying birds have a symmetrical feathers which give them better aerodynamics. kind of shaping it affect after the change. the idea is a trait designed for one thing gets adapted to something else.
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in technology, in the history of the creative arts in any field where people are trying to be inventive and imaginative the practice of taking an idea from one place and moving it over and applying it in a new context is incredibly powerful. there's a great story knocked in "where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation," it came to me afterwards, from apple, the most innovative company in the world right now, when apple was trying to figure out what to do with its stores in early days when they were starting to plan their retail stores, this was a very controversial thing, apple will not be able -- this will be a total disaster, apple didn't want to just study its direct competitors. the normal way to do is open a consumer electronics store and go and study other consumer
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electronics stores. i will look at radio shack and best buy. they wanted to reinvent what it meant to be a consumer electronics store. what is a space where consumers feel they're having an amazing experience where they just loved it? they went and studied five star hotels and made their employees go through the training program and what they came out was what people love is the concierge and whatever the issue is the concierge will figure it out. i want to take a hot air balloon over the city, can make that happen. here is the expectation. what would a high end hotel concierge be in the consumer electronics store? that became the genius bar, has been putting a new context and slightly changed around and the
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rest is history. apples stores are the most profitable retail environment on the planet. it was that kind of -- the cliche is thinking outside the box that is not just outside the box. go to some other discipline and look at what is going on in that field and see how you can trigger a new association in your head that makes you approach the problem in a new way. >> host: platform. >> guest: this is a perfect connector to future perfect. the way in which the books are deeply connected to each other. one thing we have seen with technology platforms, the internet, the web, and things like facebook and twitter is they have the extraordinary ability when they are done right to allow for all sorts of innovation on top of that platform, but the creators never dreamed of.
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you create your platform and say i will set up a service this way but then you open it up to other people who can build on top of that platform and what they do is if you set up the system right, turning your tool which you felt would be used in this way they discover these are the uses that were not part of your game plan. that is one of the ways in which a platform nobody owns like the internet for the web which is collectively owned by all of us can be a great driver of private-sector innovation because the platform is open. any company can build something on it and improvise and there are a couple good examples. one example is the way twitter was used by the protest movements like occupy wall street and the arabs spring. occupy wall street began as a hash tag on twitter. that is a little symbols and
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whatever it is, superbowl work occupy wall street and presidential debate so everyone can follow and see what is going on. occupy wall street was nothing but a hashed tag for three or four months. only later did people say we should actually occupy wall street. the catch tax started with the first thing that was successful and they go to downtown manhattan and camped out in the square but what we love about this is if you could go back in time and talk to the guys who are inventing twitter and say to them in the future your creation, your platform you are building will be used to organize protests all-around world by hatch tags, they would have said what is a hash tag? they were not part of their platform. it was something users started to add. they didn't have any vision of
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political protests or even a vision of hash tags. that came from people using twitter in that way. when we create platforms that allow this creativity from ordinary people you see this great, rage ecosystem of discovery and invention that happen this. that is why i am optimistic about "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" because the government can create platforms and encourage ordinary people -- this is true in terms of local communities where the local government sets of the platform where anyone can report a pothole or some need in their neighborhood or a problem or an opportunity that they see and because the technology allows so much more of these ways to get information to the city, the city can be much more adaptive and resilience and innovative in the way it is instead of that bureaucratic nightmare so many governments
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are you can actually have the government platform that is open and inventive and creative. >> host: this is booktv's "in depth". we invite an offer to talk about his or her body of work and this month we are pleased to have bestselling author steven johnson. here is a list of his books. beginning in 1999 a technology transforms the way we create and communicate". "emergence: the connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software" came out in 2002. "mind wide open: your brain and the neuroscience of everyday life" in 2005, came out in science, cities, and the modern world" in 2006, of air: a story of science, faith, revolution, and the birth of america" in 2008, "where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation" in 2010 and his most recent is called "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age". he is our guest for the next three hours. if you like to dial in and talk with him, 202-585-3882.
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if you live in the west mountain and pacific time zones, 202, contact mr. johnson electronically at is our e-mail address. our twiddle handle is@booktv. we will begin taking those calls in just a minute. you mentioned twitter. weren't you the first person on twitter to have a million followers? >> i don't know. i have a lot -- [talking over each other] >> host: you were one of the original user's. >> guest: what happened was early on i decided when facebook and twitter were starting a decided i could only have one social network in my life and i decided to invest in twitter so i think i was one of the first doctors using twitter for the
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invention of air war. it is a wonderful thing because when you have a book out there are all these things that don't even warrant a broad post, but it is helpful to say i am reading tonight or there is a review of my book or something in an article i just wrote. i was getting a lot out of it and twitter was early in the service and something called the suggested user list which was basically for people signing up for the first time that have a few people who might want to follow so they could have information on their screen. if you don't follow anybody on twitter the service has zero value to you because there is nothing to read so they created a suggested user list of folks and because i was involved as an author with the service from an early point they put me on this list and that gave me a lot of followers because i was on the list. i know longer have that
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artificial influx of followers because they stopped using them which means every time i tweet something i instantly lose 30 followers. only 30 people who don't want to listen to this guy any more. >> host: how often the speech to corporate groups and corporations about your thought process? >> guest: slowly over the last ten years or so, the speaking parts of my job has gone from being something i did occasionally to a big part of what i do. what i did is i speak to a lot of groups, and the books are about a lot of topics. particularly with where good ideas come from innovation is a topic that everyone is
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interested in and talk to schools a lot and non-profit and "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" is very popular only for a couple weeks and great response from the non-profit sector, generally about a lot of values that resonate with those folks a lot. you get to drop in and a food company and talk to freshman in college and talk to some amazing philanthropic organization to apply these ideas and there's a lot of diversity in groups i talked to. >> host: here is one from jose silva who tweets just sold the book to him that the plane is also a hero in the new york city water landing by itself. look at the 2005 book
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"everything bad is good for you: how today's popular culture is actually making us smarter," what is the queue? [talking over each other] >> guest: one of the things we learned in 20 or 30 years is the science of the mind has advanced in such an important way, psychology and neuroscience. the old way we had of describing intelligence is too simple. the curse of intelligence don't collapse in one dimension. as howard gardner, a harvard scientist and writer discuss multiple forms of intelligence. there is spatial intelligence and emotional intelligence and
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problem-solving intelligence and we have seen what happens is different technology comes out and development and models, surprising affects on that kind of intelligence. when we have a society, tremendous explosion in technology, causes us to have fewer face-to-face conversations or fewer conversations where we hear someone else's voice, one of the risks is emotional intelligence we have, the ability to read the emotional nuances, tone for instance, we are texting and tweeting and a full rich experience of facial expressions, a huge part of human communication.
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so we sacrifice our emotional intelligence to get other kinds of intelligence, problem-solving intelligence and the ability to understand complex systems. to give a larger and more optimistic where technology in terms of our brains. >> host: you write the dirty little secret of online gaming is how much time you spend not having fun. when you move back into the real world you find yourself mentally working on a problem, and extremely masochistic version. >> guest: there is the offensive gaming which at that point which if you listen to any conventional assessment of the
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state of kids today, it started in 2000 which i wrote in 2004-2005, on television, writing op-eds, the kids today are being dumbed down by these idiotic video game this and just a complete waste of time and so on and so forth. i was of the generation that grew up with games. i have never been a huge game where but i was always interested in it. i had seen what happened. they went from pac-man and space invaders were the simple little graphics and you're moving the joystick back-and-forth to a game mike sin city or something where you are managing an entire metropolis and dealing with a system that involves thousands of different variables and setting your own goals and trying to figure out how the system worked and building hypothetical models how the
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system should work and that was such an incredible story of increased complexity, i knew there was a lot of challenging thinking even though they were frustrating. there was a sense that games were instant gratification experience when it is the opposite. when you play a complicated game you are constantly scratching your head going why can't i get this part of the game to work right? if it were instant gratification, he would have and beautiful city with a million people in it. that pools as in. i will give you an example from more recently. to connect the books of little bit. one of the big values of future perfect, which we saw -- the importance of diversity in
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solving problems. systems that encourage us to bring together different approaches and different points of view and different fields of expertise to bear on a single problem those systems are really valuable. that is a big part of the vision for the world, diverse communities will solve problems more effectively and games turn out to be a wonderful exercise of that way of thinking. i will give you an example from the last couple years which i haven't had a chance to write about but my older boys started playing a game called dawn of discovery and that is a game where you simulate a fourteenth century trading empire. is not an educational game -- you basically start with a little island and you have some crops can you can build it up and start trading with other islands and get well. to build a little town and
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basically you can play it as a warrior or a merchant and build up wealth and you have all these objectives. is incredibly complicated. at a certain points my kids wanted to build a cathedral. you got a certain amount of wealth and could build a cathedral so they wanted to which you this stage in the game. what you had to do to build a cathedral was that your population wealthy enough to afford it and have enough stone that you would mind to physically build a cathedral and have certain spices as part of your society that the elites would be happy enough to support building a cathedral which meant you had to have a big fleet of ships to get these which meant you had a military and naval fleet to protect those ships. when my eight-year-old and my 10-year-old for fun are sitting there trying to build this cathedral and thinking like a
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city mayor and thinking like a merchant prince or an admiral or urban planner called all inside this game for fund, this is not what they're doing for school, to beg to have time on this game, it is a unified problem with all these different fields, when you look at games like that and say compared to what i was doing as a kid which was watching the dukes of hazzard you have to see that as progress. >> host: one more answer and we get to your calls and e-mails and tweets, if you're trying to evaluate a given person's emotional iq and don't have the option of sitting down in person, the tight focus of television is your best bet. reality programming simply recognized the intrinsic strength and build a whole genre
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around >> guest: everything -- "everything bad is good for you: how today's popular culture is actually making us smarter" is my most controversial and "the ghost map: the story of london's most terrifying epidemic--and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world" with the best sellers. it is fun that they wanted to talk about it. felt maybe they already read it because there was so much conversation. the other book sold better. with a book like that you always have a section where you wish you phrased things differently and there is this defense of reality tv, i can't tell you how many radio shows i did wear my next guest thinks watching big brother is making us smarter. here is steven johnson and i had to back out. this it is a little more subtle
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than that which is someone like -- we were talking about progress. that popular culture has gotten more complex over the last 20 or 30 years there's a trend towards more complexity and the kinds of stories we tell and the number of plot lines or characters on your average television show and complexity of the games as we talked about and complexity of the technology we use on the computer screen, something has gotten more challenging and the stories we interact with as popular culture consumers. the fact of that complexity is something people haven't realized and worth pointing out what it was doing to our brains was the second level to the argument. what i was trying to point out is when we started having shows like survivor and things like that on television, the way we make sense of them is comparing
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them to documentary's which was the wrong way to think about them in terms of whether television is getting better or not. reality tv shows are game shows, where you are competing by being in this e emotional battle where you are competing -- in this world where you are yelling or outsmarting or outfoxing other human beings and they are about the emotional intelligence of the participants in the reality series. if you think of a reality show as a game show, even in the most debased genre of television there is still progress because more subtlety and nuance to survivor than there is to guessing the price of refrigerator which people use to
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go on game shows, and it is not that game shows or reality shows are a tremendous work of art or choice is between reading middle march or watching a reality show you should read middle march budget given that people watch game shows i would rather have them watch reality tv than trivial game shows. >> host: is that a promotion of honey -- >> guest: i haven't seen that show. when we widen the amount of channels available, fair is more garbage, but there are more three hours of booktv too. always stuff you can point to and say that is terrible but it is astonishing, sometimes when i would give talks for "everything bad is good for you: how today's popular culture is actually making us smarter" 9 made them watch five minute of an episode of dallas from 1978 which was the hottest show on tv, who shot
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j.r. that some viewers will remember, if you can never catch it on tv is fascinating to watch because it is -- the relationship between the producers and writers and the audience is so condescending, there's a palpable sense of the creators of the show think the audience can't understand who these characters are and they spend two minutes going these two people are brothers. did everybody get that? not just that they are edited more quickly but they are able to go much faster and challenge the audience. location like lost which was insanely complicated. that show would never have gotten your national television in 1977-78. there's a tolerance for complexity and being challenged that the audience has now that
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we didn't have one i was growing up. >> host: steven johnson is our guest on "in depth". bill, you are first up today. go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: i would like people who make these machines to exercise social responsibility and have the people in south los angeles or south chicago trained to make these machines. they desperately need work and also they would be paid a decent wage relative to china and we wouldn't have any more -- we would be able to cut down immeasurably on street crime if they had something constructive to do. >> guest: interesting point. it is true we have seen in the success of technology companies, apple and google and amazon, we
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have seen a great success in american innovation as part of our society where we agree the companies have been tremendously successful and we lead the world in terms of technology but a lot of the jobs that are being created to build those gadgets are overseas in china and so there is a question how these companies can help us deal with the unemployment problem we have or lack of good manufacturing jobs but let me make an additional point which is a big one in "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" which is this. there is the interesting questions about why the tech sector has been so successful. one thing we agree on in the state of the economy, technology companies and silicon valley and seattle and new york are the envy of the world. one key reason for that is the internal structure of these corporations was much more peer
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network, much less hierarchical. the decisionmaking in silicon valley firms is much less about the boss at the top and more empowering local employees to make decisions on their own and innovate on their own and much more egalitarian in the way they share the proceeds so lot of these companies have extensive stock option plans where the lowest level employee participates with the company goes public and so on and all of that was new when the first silicon valley companies were founded in the 60s and 70s. they had these eve shows because they were founded by a bunch of engineers to did not have executive perks and the assumption everyone should participate in the success of the company and that practice is a big part of the story of why silicon valley and the tech sector has been successful. is one of these cases where being more equitable in the way we share profits inside a
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corporation we can deal with the wage and wealth inequality in this country and have better business. that is a key value of the peer progressive movement i write about in "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age". >> host: ralph, you are on booktv. go ahead with your question or comment for steven johnson. >> caller: it is so interesting, you are amazing -- i never read any of your books but i turned on the tv and i hear my thoughts being spoken. i am glad there is someone else who thinks the way i do about certain things. my question is could you pinpoint for speak to a fundamental empowerment that comes with making history but not being aware of it and sort of a secular spirituality in a way, part of a wider process
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going on that we're deeply involved in. i wanted to say, i wanted to ask you a in new york city where i live, i watch the crime rate go down substantially. video games were on the increase when i lived in poor neighborhoods. in my generation i went out and got in trouble. the people who invented the game, bring crime down in new york city. thank you very much and i will hang up to listen. >> guest: thanks. i am glad to hear our minds are in sync. i have been secretly reading your e-mail all these years.
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just kidding. two interesting questions. the second one first. there is a very interesting correlation. we can say whether it is causation. hard to test this. if you look for instance at carjacking, compared to the success of the much the lafayette became grand theft auto which is all about carjacking, the two go like this. carjacking plummets in terms of the real world as more and more kids are virtually carjacking in the game grand theft auto. whether that is an accident or there is -- if you want to have the thrill of doing something like carjacking which is referred to as a thrill crime. most people do it for the excitement of it. it would seem more sensible to do it on a screen and not actually get arrested or hurt
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anybody and so it is possible the game has taken violence out of this society by making it virtual. is hard to prove this. as the games have gotten more violent the society has gotten less violent. it is up for question why that is and why there's a real connection. your second point, the sense of being a secular spirituality is a lovely way of putting it, the sense that we are part of this tendency towards greater and greater social health and progress and we are all participating in our own little way, is a huge part of my work that we will get to, the hero of my book, joseph priestley writing in the 1700s, one of the first people to really formulate
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this vision could of progress and to point out there seem to be things happening due to the enlightenment at that time, where every generation people seem to understand more of the world and have more gadgets and more efficient at solving problems and there was this amazing sense that the future, the great aspect of opportunity and positive change, that is the optimistic for read through all my books trying to write stories to remind people of that progress not so we can rest on our laurels but build more of them. >> host: let's go to "the invention of air: a story of science, faith, revolution, and the birth of america". who was joseph priestley? did he invent air and what it was his connection to joanna the thomas jefferson? >> guest: i stumbled across this book, this project -- i thought our was in the middle of getting
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ready to write "where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation" and esteban the story of joseph priestley and got obsessed with a man ended up asking my publisher to write me -- let me read another book before a 18. joseph priestley was an incredible figure of the 18th-century. one of the great eccentric visionary minds of that period do not enough people know about. he is most famous for isolating oxygen for the first time. he didn't actually do it for the first time. what he did instead of calling an oxygen he called it ballistic air which was not a catchy title. that kind of is his main claim to fame that he did nothing this. the most important one was he was the first to realize, this was his breakthrough, he was the first to realize plants were creating air. the reason we have a breathable
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atmosphere, natural composition of oxygen on a planet would be far smaller than it actually is that because plants xl oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process we have a bubble of breathable air around the planet. so in a sense that was one of the key breakthroughs in our growing understanding of how ecosystem's work. we have air to breathe because plants manufacturing for us. we have this global connection to the plants but priestley did these other things. he was british by birth. he was franklin's best friend when franklin was in london for many years and collaborated with franklin on this discovery which is the fascinating side of the show. priestley was one of the co-founders of the unitarian church in england and had the single most powerful effect on
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jefferson's religious views of anyone. jefferson was a huge -- a priestly fan boycott, was incredibly moved and because he was such a maverick he got run out of england in the birmingham riots and came to the united states as our first intellectual exile coming 40 intellectual freedom and gets bound up in a falling out with john adams and all these controversies in the united states and ends up being the most mentioned figure in the adamas/jefferson letters. he is mentioned ten times as many times as franklin. in a famous correspondence between adams and jefferson. he is kind of this unsung missing founding father who shows up in all these key points in history that i don't know if people worry about. i wanted to celebrate his life.
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>> host: three quick quotes around the invention of air that you touch on. the orange the plant life was central to the planet's production of breathable air first approach scientific consensus in late 1916s "in depth" two physicists, lloyd burke nehr and lawrence marshall proposed in a seminal paper that the vast majority of atmospheric oxygen or originated in photosynthesis, the natural level of oxygen on earth was less than 1% of the 20.7% we now enjoy. jefferson's enlightenment sensibility made it difficult for him to keep his christian faith alive. the political realities of the day made it equally difficult to renounce christ altogether. priestly's corruption showed him the way out. christianity was not the problem. it was a counterfeit version
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that evolved over the centuries that he could not subscribe to. number 3. the sense of gravity that attended priestly's immigration seems somehow fitting to us now because priestley was inaugurating what would become one of the most honorable traditions of the american experiment, he was the first great scientist exile to seek safe harbor in america after being persecuted for his religious and political beliefs at home. next call for our guests, steven johnson, from fill in north hollywood. thanks for coming to booktv. >> caller: talk about serendipity. the reason i was calling first off, i was disagreeing to the fact of everyone stumbling over how wonderful the internet can be in a low tech and high tech world but i have to admit my
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prejudice because i work at a printing museum and my full time job is as benjamin franklin, researching the eighteenth century and everything else down the line. that is how i stumbled on you. when i was checking out about priestley and there you were talking about jefferson and so forth on the internet. i still maintain as much as there is a wide range of wonderful things, the old saw argument we all gravitate towards our own prejudice as opposed to when i look at a print newspaper in the old days i may be forced that looking at an editorial or a letter or an essay about something i may not have agreed with in the past but might change my perception. it seems with the internet i can gauge myself to my own prejudice or predilections or my own taste and live in a cocoon and not be connected with anyone else except myself. i want to throw that out to you. i expect -- respect and admire
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your observations especially with priestly and jefferson and franklin. what is your response to that? >> guest: a very important question. i talk about it in "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" at some wang for. if it is true that the effect of the internet is to create these bubbles, we call them echo chambers where we only listen to people who are like us, that would absolutely be a betrayal of the diversity values that are talk about, to be a peer progressive is to surround yourself with people with different perspectives on the world and we will solve problems more creatively if we have that kind of diverse conversation in our lives. we agree on that. where we disagree is the internet is necessarily creating
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those bubbles. well is true you can filter out and focus on your core group, you are all so far more connected to a far wider range of potential positions and interpretations than you were in the days of print. you are one click away from someone who radically disagrees with you. the simplest way to think of it is if you think the internet is creating an echo chamber than a problem with the internet is there isn't enough arguing going on on the internet. .. time on discussion board or you know, bulletin board or comment area for a newspaper you know there is a lot of arguing going on the internet. in fact we now know that there have been a number of studies recently which really rigorously tried to figure out exactly how strong is the echo chamber online. how does it compare to the echo chamber on television. the echo chamber in newspapers and the echo chambers in real world in face-to-face encounters.
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in foot -- future perfect i talked about this one group that create ad isolation index. that is a score basically if the isolation index score is very high, it means that the echo chamber effect is very strong. if you're a republican you're only hearing other republicans. if you're a left-wing progressive you're only hearing other left-wing progression serves. they analyze all of different forms of media, in terms of media the internet was right in the middle. it was really not that much different from cable television, not that much different from newspapers. all basically the same. . .
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>> the media has been in force for diversity. post macmichael, you're on the phone with steven johnson. >> caller: hello, there are a lot of companies trying to organize innovation. do you think innovation can be organized and encouraged?
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something like bell labs or maybe the things that google does now? >> guest: i absolutely do think it can be. that is what i'm trying to do which was to talk about these various different techniques. you know, 3-m and google have experimented with this. the 20% time for the employees. for certain were certain employees are given 20% of their time to work on basically whatever they want. their own side project, their own little hunches, actually to use language that i used in my book. the only real responsibility is to report to the supervisor every month or so other 20% time project is going and if they have switched over to another project. that 20% of time because it is open ended and evolves the unique compassion that employee,
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it allows the company to have fresh ideas all the time. and anytime they can stop the 20% of time. google news, parts of gmail, social networking, part of their advertising engine, it started as 20% time experiments. it is allowing employees what their hobbies be part of their job. a lot of the people that i profile in turn eight, people like priestley, or looking back on the book like "the ghost map" come all these people come one of the defining characteristics is that they have a lot of hobbies. when you think about ben franklin, he had an insane number of hobbies.
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a lot of great things can happen when you're just by yourself. it reminds you of some connection and a new angle perhaps on the problem with this network. and that smart companies are starting to realize the full diversity of each employee's interest is not something they should suppress. >> like don't bring your hobbies and work, but it to allow them to open and shape up new possibilities for each employees. >> host: a lot of what you talk about is unique to the economy. you could do that in a hospital or a car company? >> guest: i will tell you about a great thing that i heard there
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was a program started by general mills and a couple of other companies. they weren't necessarily even into, but a bunch of different fields. they had this realization that they had all these employees, people who have retired, those that were 62 or 78, still mentally at the top of their game -- they created this network across the different countries where all of the retired employees could check in on this website, and someone who was currently working at the company, they stumbled across a problem, they could work on it. and anyone that was tuned in, the merit of employees, they could suggest an answer.
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the story that i've heard i heard is that there was an employee at general mills that was stuck on google loves. the fruit rollup was too sticky. and there was a guy from 3-m know exactly how to get the right adhesion for this thing. you know, it was because they set up this platform. it was because they were allowing people from different fields, entirely different companies and industries to look over the shoulder of other people. they were able to come up with an inventive solution to the problem host mark well, steven johnson, the gentleman who came up with the right stickiness for a fruit rollup, should he be allowed to have that property?
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>> guest: the default function that we have the patents are good for innovation and if we allow people to own and have a proprietary ownership of their ideas, we will have more innovation, because people will be incentivized to make the vast fortunes that they will make from their invention. what i'm trying to point out is that yes, those rewards are important, and yes, you want to -- that's what you want to point out the power of the markets. but so much of innovation comes from another idea and building on it. what happens do and intellectual property restrictions do is they
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create artificial diction in the process of borrowing an idea and improving it and putting it into context. it can actually be a hindrance to innovation if it is too rigid. in fact, this is a big point from previously. a big point from "emergence." he was writing about this topic and he wanted to attract the attentions of other geniuses.
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so that franklin can say, hey, what if you added this, and turn it into something better. you have to get the balance right. it is not that it's necessarily go away, but we have to figure a way out a way to allow ideas and have that kind of circulation that they need to lead to breakthroughs. >> host: you are watching the tv as is our monthly program, and death. steven johnson is our guest. learning is not just about information, it is also just about -- it is also about storing information in knowing where to find it. how do you relate to current episodes on data to the statement and can we learn more by storing more and is there a best way to store more information?
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>> guest: i'm glad he wrote about "emergence." it's a great book to reference. there is a data story in "future perfect", which gets to this question entirely. one of the platforms, is the 311 platform. which is in many cities around the country. the most advanced version of it is in in new york city. what 311 does is allow anyone to call three numbers on the phone, to talk to a live human being, and they can report problems and report a noisy bar down the street, they can ask questions. is their there alternative parking, our schools closed today, they can ask for services they need, i need a battered women's shelter, etc. what makes it so powerful, not just that you get a live human being who can answer your
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question, the city takes in all that data and analyzes it. and they store it. and they use it to create a dashboard where they can see all the problems that are unmet needs that are emerging in the city. it allows them to be much more resilient and adaptable and flexible and inventive. identifying problems and solving them. again, this is a classic network kind of structure gives the argument of "in "future perfect" the city has taken on these people who were not on the payroll of the government, ordinary people walking around with a cell phone, they took that network of peers and neighbors and allow them to solve the problems of the city. the bizarre thing and started to happen in the book in new york, that i actually experienced living in new york -- there is a
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certain neighborhood on the west side of manhattan, for no apparent reason, they would start to smell like maple syrup. so people would be walking in west chelsea and they said, it smells like pancakes. with colin to the 311 number because this is after 9/11, and people were afraid that it was some kind of chemical attack from the and jemima wing of al qaeda or something. so they would call in and they would report this strange smell. the cities and the people to test the air. finally, after years, they realized that the data that they had been storing that had been
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sitting there in their databases for all this time, actually it gave clues and they could figure out what is causing the smell because they know where all the calls were coming from each day that it actually erupted. they went back and they looked at the exact location of the calls. the wind patterns for each day. when you analyze where the wind was each day and the clusters of calls were, it pointed back to this exact point in new jersey, and they drove this point and they realized that right there was this industrial artificial flavoring plant, where they would manufacture stuff that was in maple syrup. what i love about it is that, talk about the power of art forms, while is not a chemical attack, when they were designing 311, nobody said we want to make sure that the service is very good and there is a maple syrup
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outbreak and we can detect where it is coming from. because it is an open platform and because they were storing all that data and they knew how to analyze it. >> host: we have someone who tweets in and asks continues to florist? >> guest: open source is a form of opera collaboration and it continues to florist. people who don't necessarily know each other, they don't necessarily work for the same company, they contribute small pieces.
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there is a small company called lenox, they use limits for a cell phone foundation -- and their other forms of open source software that are in every iphone and every ipad and every macintosh computer. imagine that you could -- the were some kind of doctor evil who could create a special magnetic pull that would cause every piece of open source for piece of software to fail. what would happen as a society? this cannot happen. just to imagine it.
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internet will go down, e-mail will go down, the web would go down. every and were advised to go down. stock markets would go down, planes would fall out of the sky from the energy sector would fail. there would be a global catastrophe. the point of this is to show how dependent we are as a society on this kind of open source collaborative labor. the fact that here's the thing that would've sounded like a utopian utopian fantasy 25 or 30 years ago. now, we are hooked on it as a progressive society. whether it is the private sector or the public sector. all of us now depend upon the product of that pure network collaboration. you know, when i look at how much we build and upload of collaboration, that is the thing that makes me say, what more can we do?
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what can we saw with this peer networking approach? >> host: the next call comes from alta dena, california. paco hello? we are going to have to put you on hold. you need to turn down the volume on your tv. we have bob in florida. >> caller: this is a great show and i appreciate that show in the guest as well. i am working on something and i am listening to you guys at the same time. i believe there are at least a handful of us who certainly appreciate this stuff. mr. johnson's perspective on this and his ability to articulate the issues. let me get right in to my dilemma. i work at a local and state level to advocate for the inclusion of a detailed analysis
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of options in the information of progressive ideas, and that progressive policies on various issues at the local and state government as private citizens. what i have found is that the established order of things has been inhibiting the implementation of innovation. let's say, certainly i have specific examples that i won't go into, but you probably know, public utilities, like how they operate, and they can hold back innovation and innovative applications of new technologies because they are in concert with the state regulators to protect their interests. it inhibits the evolution of innovation. which we didn't have in the past. the waste disposal as opposed to recycling is something most people are familiar with as an issue. the time allotted for doing that
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keeping them out of the happier that is dedicated to the preservation of the natural resources, turtles on the beaches on the light. so if you go back to what you mentioned earlier about your son's name in the spice world, then there was so much room for innovation to occur as a parallel, at a parallel place where someone can come up with a steamship and build it. and all of a sudden, the scenario changes of it. but now, everything is so crowded and sophisticated and understood, that these larger interest can prevent innovation. >> host: okay, bob, we got the point. >> guest: okay, thank you for the kind words. it is great that you are working
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and watching at the same time. maybe interesting things will happen. you know, it is a real issue. when you have entrenched institutions, and this is true in the private sector and public sector. they have a certain approach and they have a certain kind of institutional inertia to them and they are hard to move and hard to innovate. in government particularly has that problem. but i think one of the things, it sounds like you are involved in doing, which is having systems that widen the pool of participation from ordinary citizens who again are not on the payroll. 311 was a great example of that. the other example that i talk about at some length in "future perfect" is developing what we call purchase of the tory budgeting.
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i'm not just talking about high-tech solutions to problems. this is something that was done with people organizing and reading face-to-face. there is no technology involved. the idea is that in local government, each year there is a certain amount of taxpayer dollars are allocated for funds that are devoted to projects that have been determined by communities and neighbors themselves. so every year from all the neighborhoods -- the communities would get together and they would say, what are their needs in this community? what are we looking for here? the city is growing and they have a lot of infrastructure needs. and the neighbor neighbors would say we need the sewer line here, the electricity grid here, another room in the local school, playground here -- and the neighbors themselves would create this linked list of
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priorities for their communities. the dollars from the state would then get devoted to those priorities based on what the ordinary citizens do. the money came from the state, but the decision of what it should fund came from the streets and the ordinary folks in the community who were not working for the government. what was created was, it helps deal with the waste and corruption in the institutional inertia that you so often find with government. because it was much harder for a project just kind of disappear and never get made, the money disappear, because people were like -- wait, we asked for that sewer line extension. where is the? it was supposed to be done six months ago? we were the people who put it in motion. suddenly, things got built much more quickly. i get into a lot more details about how dramatic the improvement was. but it also created this positive feedback where citizens participated in this process.
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they saw the results. the next year, their lives were better, their communities were better. they came back for more because they had a sense of, well, i can actually change things in my world i get involved. now the budgeting is used by more than 10% of european towns. and it is on the ground and working in parts of brooklyn and parts of chicago. it is a great example of that kind of pure network approach to how our taxpayer dollars should be spent. >> host: glennon altadena, california, are you ready? >> caller: , thank you so much. thank you so much. my question is [inaudible name] to children of average intelligence estimates he could
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come in for 25 years, he experimented with them and he figured out that we are dumbed down by 80 iq point the lowest child tested twice, and he had an iq come the lowest one of 180 on the stanford test of twice. a lot of them scored 200, and they are supposed to be average kids. you know, this kind of thing is not -- this is like 30 years ago that he did this. it just hasn't taken hold. he has written books and put them all over the world. >> host: so you are saying that children were dumbed down by what? >> caller: it is done by matt. >> host: how are they being dumbed down? >> caller: just doing the numbers like seven and five --
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the numbers for children, it dumps them down. by 80 iq points. it is scientifically proven. he took average children over 25 years in these really good experiments. >> guest: i'm not familiar with that experiment, but it's worth mentioning here a big name of everything that is good for you. it is a fascinating, long-term trend, which is all around the world. it is the long-term trend, industrialized ascites or iq points to improve -- iq scores to improve over time. this is the documented study in iq. the debate about why it is happening is where there is real
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debate. i kind of argue that there is a possibility that the kind of thinking that one has to do in advanced technology situations and advanced communication would tend to translate into higher iq scores on a test, because there is similarity in the kinds of problems that you have to solve on an iq test. i think this gentleman has written about this quite a bit, and there is an increased problem-solving exercise that you have from technology and other forms. and of course, you take more tests, which is important. one hundred years ago, did not take as many tests. it may be a little bit of an echo effect. it was when you measure it by iq, again, as i said before, iq is not the full story of intelligence. there are a lot of other different connections to it. but we do know that each generation has been getting
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smarter on an iq level for quite some time now. >> host: and in fact, the book "everything bad is good for you: how today's popular culture is actually making us smarter", he writes the great unsung story of our culture today is how many welcome trends are going up. anthony in san antonio, texas. you are on booktv with steven johnson. >> caller: good morning, mr. johnson. let me just say what a distinct pleasure it is to talk to you. i want to say in 2005, i was a counselor educator and i taught a continuing education class counselors throughout the san antonio community. believe me, i used your book, the looks were bewilderment and total aggravation. the title freak them out.
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learning is prefigured. the kids were teaching me. i didn't know anything about computers. how are we going to use it to guard against plagiarism? this had nothing to do with it. the resistance, as the time went on, and when i wrote my little blurb on amazon at 11 responses, only two people agreed with it. so this resistance among practitioners had to be tremendous. when the little kid wrote the iphone initiative about two or three years ago, and i played that in one of my classes, the ones over 45 and 50 years old work against it. but the younger ones were part of the global village and they were connected like an umbilical cord. so we are getting better at this >> guest: i'm glad the book was
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helpful. thank you. two things come to mind. when i wrote everything that was good for you, in my book "everything bad is good for you", one thing was in the writing of it is that i had a couple of distinct audiences in mind for that book. a lot of that is trying to get that book right is about managing these different imagined readers in my head as i was writing it. so i wanted to write it in part for teachers and educators and people who were thinking about the media. so that would touch that academic context. i was also writing it took senior olds who were having a fight with their parents over how much time they should be allowed to play video games and giving them almost a bit of a generational book that they could resonate and connect to and it would sound like someone was finally understanding what they were doing with their media. trying to get the balance right is always a tricky thing with the writer. the other thing i tried to do with my book is -- we always approach a new technology with the kind of biases of how the
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old studies to work. i had that, too. the technology that i grew up i see network games which i didn't play as a kid. why would you play games with all those other people? with games one thing i did is this little imagination track of what would it be like if games had come before books and kids had been playing video games for 300 years and of a sudden books were invented and that was the new trend. of the kids were crazy about reading books than playing games. i tried to imagine what would be the angry op-ed that someone would write about these new books and how they were ruining the mind of a generation. something like these kids are reading books and it is just words. of video game involves images and sound and decisionmaking and
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these kids just read books and can't make choices. they're forced to be passive and follow the story line of other authors which will create a generation of not leaders but people who are just followers and expose all these dyslexic kids who didn't even exist before books came along and go to these libraries and children just sitting there, normally socially vivacious, sitting alone in silence staring at books. what a horrible thing for our kids. obviously i didn't believe that and i'm above believers in books and read books for a living but it was a way to get people to understand how the false prejudice against games sounded to generation that grew up with this technology. books have a host of benefits that are real and important and achieve many things but we have to understand the new technology has its own opportunities and own benefits as well.
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>> we're talking with author steven johnson. in 1999 his first book technology transforms the way we create and communicate". "emergence: the connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software" in 2002 followed life". "everything bad is good for you: how today's popular culture is actually making us smarter" came "the ghost map: the story of london's most terrifying epidemic--and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world" came out in 2006, invention of air: a story of science, faith, revolution, and the birth of america" in 2008, "where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation" came out in 2010 and finally his newest book a couple weeks on the market, "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" is the name of that book. we always ask our authors on this program what they are reading and to their influences are and little tidbits of fact from them and we want to show you that right now. ♪
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♪ ♪ >> you listed john snow as one of your greatest influences. who was john snow?
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>> guest: john snow was the story of london's most terrifying epidemic--and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world". he was again on the theme of great thinkers with a lot of hobbies. he was a doctor in london in the nineteenth century and he was a local physician who was working with the 4, one of the poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods in london and he did side projects like breakthroughs in anesthesiology as a hobby. the big thing for a happened, got interested one of the great medical mysteries, what was causing cholera. the great nineteenth century killer. it came in 1832 and you have
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these outbreaks of cholera that would kill twentieth thirty thousand people. at the time over the course of the summer, he got interested in cholera in 1848 or so and at the time the authorities were convinced cholera was in the air. this was known as the miasma theory of cholera, people were breathing in something in the air and david get sick. this was one of the great medical mistakes of the period because cholera is in the water, not in the era comes from contaminated water supplies so you had the whole medical establishment trying to solve a crucial problem and they were approaching it in the wrong way, looking for an infectious agent and a wrong place. he got interested in this problem that began as a hobby in the late 1840's and began to do his investigational this and eventually in summer of 1854 an
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outbreak erupted in his neighborhood which went on to become the most concentrated and terrifying outbreak of cholera in the history of england but courageously because this was happening at his doorstep he decided to investigate it as it was happening so he started knocking on doors as people were being carried down the street and bodies piling up. 2 has gotten sick and who hasn't gotten sick and he did this shoe leather detective work and ends of collaborating with the 7 guy named henry white head who was completely involved in all the accounts of the story that i discovered when doing my research and get these two minds building a map which is for the title comes from that shows that there's a very strong collection or cluster of deaths right around this public watering hole
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or pump where people get their water at 40 broad st. and based on that map snow convince the authorities eventually that in fact the miasma theory is wrong and what has happened is the pump has gotten contaminated and over time basically the authorities come around to this idea that the london sewers are built, one of the great engineering achievements of the nineteenth century belowground, and by 1866 thanks to snow's detective work cholera is gone from london for good, never to return again just 12 years after the outbreak. it is a story of a mind to change the world, collaborating with different kind of minds the change the world but it is the one book i have written that this kind of a thriller. is the story of the outbreak day-by-day so it has a kind of
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narrative facing that i can say personally was incredibly fun to write and because of that i'm afraid it has this page turner quality which i can say none of my other books have. >> what is john snow celebrated for his achievement? >> guest: some people recognize it but he died in 58, just four years later. he didn't live to see the sewers being built or the broad acceptance of his ideas. the funny thing about that book was there are some things when you write nonfiction, when you write history there are these things where you really want something to be true but you can't prove it. not that you want to invent something but you want something to be true but can't find the evidence of it and with that book i really wanted snow and whitehead to develop a great friendship in the middle of this terrible great ship -- outbreak. if you're doing a movie which
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they made to you would want this bond between two men and for a long, couldn't find any evidence of and i had written a bit of the book until finally i discovered this obscure little autobiography whitehead had written many years later, live to be 80 or 90 at the end, found in the new york -- didn't find if in england but in new york public library in the great reading room in the public library and there's a line from whitehead that says we went on this tremendous adventure together, john snow and i endeavor after a portrait of snow has hung in my library to remind me of that momentous week we spent together and how it changed all of our lives and all i look up to him. i started cheering up in the library. they were friends after all. people were looking at me like
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what is he doing? so captivating. that is one of my great research >> host: in story of london's most terrifying epidemic--and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world" you write the construction of the new sewers was as epic and undoing as the building of the eiffel tower. if snow and whitehead's investigation showed her intelligence that come to understand a massive health crisis, sewers proved you could actually do something about it. >> guest: there is a whole urban infrastructure appreciation that i think we need to have more of and one of the best thing for me as an author with the "the ghost map: the story of london's most terrifying epidemic--and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world" is after the book came out i started getting -- you have google dollars for the title of your books, i started getting google alerts from people who were up loading photos from their vacation and saying here we are in london on
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vacation london's most terrifying epidemic--and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world". if you are influencing people's vacation itinerary's you have something going on. >> host: if you would like to talk to steven johnson you can dial the phone numbers on the screen and also contact us electronically or@booktv is our twitter handle and send an e-mail at ravens gap, georgia. you have been holding patient we. go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: i am in awe, i didn't learn to read until i was 31 and i learned because i wanted to learn more. i have a very enthusiastic mind, the top light in madison, i know who the top people are if you ask me.
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if you ask me any topics i usually no four five people who control the topic and i just wanted -- how fast you learn, you are a speed lerner and enjoy information. how did this come about. i want to hang up because i love to hear you talk more. >> host: did you say you learned to read when you were 31? >> caller: yes. i had brain damage -- i am 75 but i have all apple computer's. i have six of them. >> host: what was it like for you to go through young adulthood not knowing how to read? >> caller: hang around a 4.0s. they will help you. the teachers are not kind. they're insulted because they don't do what you say the way they say it.
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the 4.zeros are kinder to you. i always hung around the top people and i was on the open heart team. i can't spell but i know what it is. >> host: thank you for calling in and watching c-span2. >> guest: in some ways the idea of finding the top people in a field, that part of what i get to do for a living which is a wonderful thing, my book jumped around a lot of different fields. i will write about neuroscience or evolutionary theory or something, part of the research is finding the right people instead of interviewing them or talking about them. there is the speed learning process. each book is like going to grad school for a year or two and you move on. what you also find with people
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at the very top of their field who are very specialized, when you listen to them talk about their work, they don't have a very good sense of what is most interesting to an ordinary person in their work because they are working at the very edges of their discipline, trying to figure out the new thing nobody has figured out yet. there's something in their field everybody agreed five years ago as a given that they all agreed on and in the new problem, most of us haven't heard about that and the old thing is often interesting. you have our conversation with them and they will say something in passing and that is the really great fame. is always fun to hang around with those folks and try to figure out what it is they have underestimated the value of and translate that into a language folks like me can understand.
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>> host: how did you get interested in it? >> guest: i was always -- i always liked to write. i always wanted to be a writer from one i was 12 or 13. i thought i would do different kinds of writing. i was going to be a creative writer and write fiction or plays but i always had an interest in technology. hard to remember this but when i was in college from 86 until 90 and in grad school after that, it just wasn't cool to be into your computer in 1988-'89. i was the total creature of the macintosh and had a bunch of cool creative friends who would come over and i would show the something and this is not very cool, don't hang around your computer so much. wasn't until for me wired
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magazine, when it came out in '93 i was in grad school in columbia and this magazine writing about technology as a cultural force, reviewing the latest word processor, they were talking about where the technology was going to take us and suddenly it made me think i could combine the cultural historical stuff i was studying at grad school and the state of the art technology i was interested in. then at a certain point i started realizing, i looked up some point in the ninetys i looked in my bookshelf and realized the last 50 books had been science books. i had a mediocre background and my parents are making fun of me because we saw your high school biology grades. you were not good at biology but i realize i was more interested in the science side of things. i thought i could try my hand at writing popular science. it is really those three --
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talking about controversial influences, the three rivers of an interesting call for an interest in technology and interest in science converging and creating the books that are in front of you right there. >> host: who do you read on a regular basis by technology? when you think of technology? gee read the new york times? >> guest: those guys are wonderful. at one point related to what we were talking about before which is an earlier caller was asking about diversifying, did you keep track of folks similar to you in your case? one of the things i found that is useful to me professionally and personally about twitter. i follow, i try to follow a diverse mix. i followed bunch of political
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rhetoric and technology rhetoric, follow franz and architecture. i get out not 140 characters. meets the links, they link to things, and the past lane. the short twitter messages point to six thousand word new yorker article. it is that grew that determines the random morning reading i have over the first cup of coffee before come to work. they have more control over what i read that the editorial board of the new york times and wall street journal. they often point the wall street journal and i read a lot of
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them. and that is a great use but you have to choose to have an eclectic mix of people you follow. >> host: how might higher education. >> one place that there's a lot of interesting were going on, and many others is the concept of stimulation like the games. but i was referring to. one thing that happens when you present information to students. and through the lecture and reading a book and have a much
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more in misunderstanding of imagined a class on the history class on the revolutionary war, look for kind of experience of which is a simulation of the revolutionary war, not just military simulation but a social stimulation so you would supplement that with lectures but the primary thing would be the class would be simulating of the events that led to the revolutionary conflict and stimulate the economic tensions and geopolitical tensions and the climate and photography that had impact on the military and political movements. it at all be modeled in software. the simulation would be the british would win.
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this is what happened. the students would get out of that a much more vivid. there is a tactile sense of what it is like to be in an environment. and with various pressures were and all the variables that bending to that and the resolution. >> the next call from idaho falls, idaho. >> what you exhibit is a prospective of faith and i don't know if you're comfortable with that word or if you have a question of what does faith mean to me. >> host: with the mean? >> caller: face is a mistake. people don't come from the
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perspective of faith but it is electric and energizing when i hear someone who does come from a perspective of faith. >> guest: let's talk about this in the context of joseph priestley because we talk about the invention of air. he was a deeply religious person who one of the things he talked about in his work was the kind of electric to use your language feeling of the blind, when you think about the forward march of history and progress. that was a big theme for him that he imagined as the work of god, you can see society growing more advanced than human beings have more understanding having more compassion and to see that progress is something marching
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along that was much bigger than the individual. to be moved along by something but also participating in that movement, it is a deep and profound part of the human condition. one of the great experiences, intellectual and emotional, there's an element to that, it is not the word i would use the element of something larger than yourself taking you to a better place of some kind, a sentiment that i think we need to have more of an institution that encourage that feeling in human beings, institutions that are valuable. and encourage people to have that feeling and by telling
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stories that come from secular routes and the advance in our understanding of science, and when doesn't have to start about religion in a traditional sense. hand being forces larger than you, one of the great feelings of life. >> host: you get the question about faith versus technology? >> i get a lot in "the invention of air: a story of science, faith, revolution, and the birth of america". i don't get it quite as much. the technology version of this, a lot of technology futures the lead in the singularity that we are heading towards a point where machine intelligence and exceeds intelligence. and we lose control of the machines on some level. this is dystopian idea, in the terminator movies or utopian
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idea where finally there will be things smarter than humans that will be able, and that is the rhapsody. i get into that more. >> host: steven johnson is our guest and we have in our laps on at the 11 lebron in ohio, you are on. >> it is a pleasure to speak with you. if i could divert my attention for a moment. and your professionalism and tv rescues, and my appreciation, if
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you wouldn't mind. would you mind speaking on your work ethic. the you have a specific schedule you write that you do your research first, and i know i've accomplished a lot more, if i did not watch the almighty tv, do you watch tv, do you have something to divert your attention or do you say this is my job. i am only here once in this lifetime and this is my focus and i appreciate that. thank you. >> let me second the compliments. an honor to be on the show. this is been special for me.
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my work ethic my work ethic is to write, to write a small and less ambitious goals. and sometimes i'm not writing a book, i try to do it in the morning. >> host: it is 500 words. >> guest: may be a page and have. writers think in words which most people don't. it is like a short op-ed. and op-ed in the newspaper could be 500 to a thousand words. i try to write 500 words a day. if i know what i am working on i can due in 25 minutes. sometimes it takes three hours. depends how hard it is and how
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much i have to fill in. if i do a little extra, i try to get that done and if i do that every day you don't wake up in the morning and say i have to write an entire chapter today. if i do that 500 words a day for three or four five months you have a book. it adds up to enough words per book. the one thing i try to do that is a weird technique that developed over the years, i don't really did chapters as i am writing them. when i sit down in the morning in the middle of a chapter i will briefly read read the last couple words i wrote such as remember where i was and start writing the next 500 words. i sit down and read the whole chapter once, do and at it and put it away. i won't we read the chapter in july and done with the entire book. the reason i do that is because the tendency is to just 3 read your stuff constantly and sit
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down each day and read the entire chapter to the point where you have got it. the one that waits a long time, it means by the time you are done with the book you have read the thing 50 times, or 100 times and you are so bored and everything seems so obvious because you read it so many times you can't tell what is working or what is not. when i sit down to read the whole book having only ready chapter once, i can read it with fresh eyes and oftentimes i find i have repeated myself word for word because i had forgotten that i had written one section and wrote the same section somewhere else. i get a sense of what is flowing and working and slowing down. i read it as if i never read it before and also helps me right faster. that is my little technique i have developed. >> host: where d live?
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>> guest: we just moved for a couple years to california adventure to california after being in brooklyn for 21 years or 22 years. >> host: why did you move out there? >> guest: we wanted to try something different. our kids are at a nice age where they didn't yet have girlfriends. i don't have to go into an office. my wife used to work at mtv and isn't working there now. >> host: who is your wife? >> guest: electra robinson. she was at mtv. wasn't the d. j.. we wanted to go on some kind of adventure with the kids to take advantage of the fact that we can live anywhere.
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i always loved northern california and have a lot of friends out there and technology projects i was involved with and things i have written about that was helpful especially to be out there for a while. we have been off on this adventure for a year now. >> host: john in washington. good afternoon. please go ahead with your question or comment for steven johnson. >> caller: a pleasure speaking to you. i was a first wave and financial planner in the 70s. i heard of your ghost maps story. after i graduated, i thought i would kick around the architecture plus ecology and play with computer models and satellite data late at night without authorization. before the term hacker or gaea's spatial intelligence technology was invented.
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anyway, that was really going nowhere. today, however, it looks like cloud technology and computing and the lot of these break throughs are going to make three dimensional environmental computing feasible. we did not have 3-dimensional philosophy to work with this technology. i don't even see it there now. is a little troubling. >> what an interesting -- >> i have been thinking about a bunch of -- when "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" came out. the power thanks to the peer
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network that i'm talking about, we have all this data we can gather, and whether it is environmental problems commack and in the government, so there's a lot of opportunity for a new and much more optimistic vision of how to make the world better place and a new political framework. that is the core of "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age," telling the story of those opportunities. the question i am of,. as powerful as those peer network systems are. on those forms of communication capable of long-term thinking. when we think of environmental
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issues and urban planning, the most important role traditional state governments are going to have, and the 20 year scale with a 50 year scale and we don't necessarily need this bridge right now but we know we need this in 10 years, and when we think of energy needs or climate change, we have to think on a long-term scale and we know this is what happens to markets, the private-sector things quarter to quarter. and you got to be crazy to do that. there are peer networks capable of thinking along term way. and traditional planning topped
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out planning, and there's a vital role to play because it is 50 years in the future. >> host: is it fair to say "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" is sort of your network, because that is future. came about? >> before group collaboration and diverse interests coming together. the power of open platform is. it is the big theme of molten -- of the air. future perfect was always in the background. it is a sense of political philosophy. what can make the world better
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place, stories about people from past, and innovation. when i was at the end of where these ideas come from everything i was arguing for in that book was implicitly a kind of political the you and if you believe in the power of decentralize networks and group collaboration. we are not sitting in the democratic party republican party, and that is why i did that because it is the first openly political book i have written. and things on the other side, and one is that beat and trying to figure out a way to present a third alternative that is not
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just send risen. not saying we want a little of the left and a little of the right and we will be moderate. there's an additional set of tools here that are not just the marketplace. we have an opportunity now to put those tools to work in a new way and we should be excited about that. >> host: pour richard d.c. has sent a couple tweets but his latest is what is the 311 equivalent for our politics? he also sent a tweet that said is their innovation in politics rather than government? >> guest: great question. one thing i talked-about and "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" is major problem we have right now is campaign finance. we have a betrayal of those values of diversity that happens in terms of the way campaigns are funded. and the population funding super
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pacs and this makes the 1% look egalitarian. the political system is oriented around a small number of donors or big corporations or big unions that contribute to these campaigns. you don't have enough perspective shaping the values of the politicians because they are so dependent on the money. the left wing argument is you have public funding and take the funding out of it which is complicated and you would need a constitutional amendment to make that happen. a few folks who are my heroes have proposed this other system which is democracy vouchers. seems to me a great embodiments of the progressive ideals which is to say don't just have the state take over the campaign. that would be too top down. give everybody $50 of their
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taxes that they are going to pay or if they don't and let them spend $50 on any candidate that they want for any party that they want and they can at $100 to that with their own money. if they don't specifically earmarked their money for a candidate or party, that $50 goes to the party they are registered with and if they are not registered with the party goes to support mechanics of elections. that would create a giant pool of money and any candidate who wanted the money would be able to get it as long as they swore off any funding. it would be entirely offset in. that would have a process of diversifying the number of potential contributors to the campaign which would be great and it would mean people were not just chasing big donors and having costume parties and
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benefits all the time which is a waste of time and it gets that results in politics and they're listening to a small number of people and they're not governing and raising this money. those solutions, ambitious and hard to figure out how it was built and should have a model for those solutions we can point to and say this is how it would be better and how we can improve things and fear the shift toward these goals and having a feeling gridlock is inevitable. >> host: david in eugene, ore.. please go ahead with your question or comment. >> this is for steven johnson. two things. i am wondering what steps a person could take day to day to encourage cultural progress and the second is what could be "in
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depth" 11 program due to incorporate the peer network model? a chance to read your book for some of your books, e-mail in with some thoughts or months from now brief follow-up program where you respond to some of that? do you have any ideas how to incorporate the model? >> guest: i like that. feels right now what is so fun do have these conversations live, there is an actual conversation happening which is great. the opportunities, books are interesting because fundamentally they are 1:1 conversation between an author and a reader and they remain a strangely private act in society, increasingly public society. you talk directly to your readers. there is a lot of interesting stuff happening now. there is a service i am helping
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with called finding which is trying to encourage people to do more social reading where they read their books in private but can take quote they are inspired by and share them with other people and see what other people are reading and the opportunity to go through and have this open network book club where people are reading and discussing and the author is part of the process, the tools have never been more advanced than they are now. there's a great opportunity there. i have forgotten what the first question was. >> host: i did to. i just e-mailed the producer of the program immediately, noting the time of your call and said let's get his number, and follow up with that idea in some way as an open source and do a follow-up with steven johnson.
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i didn't even hear what mr. johnson said. i was following up on that immediately. >> guest: this has been true too. you write some books because you want to entertain people or persuade them of a prospective on the world war tell them a rich story, some books are written that way. you try to encourage people to surprise you. give them a framework you can use and the hope is people will read "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" and go out and build a peer networks in some other facet of society that i haven't thought about all. wasn't on my road map that all but five years from now is so fantastic and you are so good for going in and doing that on your own. if this show is one of the first
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to do that, that is too fitting. >> host: next call from keener in maryland. >> caller: good afternoon, mr. johnson. i enjoyed your book "where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation". i happened to work 1958-1991 in and applied physics lab. i know dr. wyatt and doctor gotinback very well and they made this happen from an idea. the people in the programming, a computer that had to determine the orbital parameters of the thing and three of my friends worked on it and myself and three and others worked on a submarine program to capture the data to help keep the russians
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in down. and one final -- the injection in the tank so the entire team, a lean number. that helped get the entire thing done from idea to operation in four years and a hybrid people were incredibly bright and the total cost was $300 million. we are extremely proud of that but another one came out that is not known and you were right about the atmosphere there. everybody talks to everybody about everything. that same atmosphere happened when we had a fuel shortage in the 70s and another invention is of extreme use. a chemist put in charge of the labs involved in all aspects in the 70s.
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renewable energy projects and fuels. by 1980 everybody knows the fuel choice for alternative, turned out a chemist was in charge of a renewable energy, dr. william avery and he immediately saw what was coming up and he was working on energy to produce electricity and water in great numbers and he said all i have to do is electrolyzed the water and i have hydrogen, he ran a test for the company and he didn't have the facility available so on land he had electricity and water and made a small test lab if you will using 25 tons of carbon a day, 33 tons of methanol. he made a huge jump with the cold slur and the others looked
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and said that is not a good idea. we can be more efficient. in one stroke they ran tests and the output jumped 75%. the upshot of this is invention -- i think you would appreciate reading the book. his book that he unfortunately died seven years ago but his book describes this thing. the idea that we believe we can make methanol with this process, cheaper -- >> host: we got the idea. thank you for that story. he was referring to in the first part the story i tell me an end of "where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation" which is this amazing collaboration at the
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applied physics lab in maryland where these two guys were kind of inspired by the launch of sputnik which had just gone up a couple days before the first satellite sent up into orbit by the soviets and they decided to kind of listen for it because there is this thing that must be sending a signal so it wasn't part of their official responsibility. they start to track this thing over time and figure out interesting things from the signal and figured out they can locate it physically in space and figure out it's for that. from that strange kind of unplanned investigation the technology of gps navigation technology developed and it was originally used for military purposes but over time has been opened up and here we are 50 years later and we are walking around with gps device is in our
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pockets. it shows the power of that kind of innovation where because they were allowed to follow their hunch even though they didn't know where it was going to take them it ended up going from being a tool for fighting the cold war to being a tool for us navigating in our cars to find a coffee shop somewhere nearby. when you create platforms that allow people to invent on top of existing inventions as we have done with gps in so many ways the last 20 or 30 years that is a big driver of innovation in society. >> host: glenn freeman in michigan. go ahead. >> caller: thank you very much. a couple fast questions for dr. johnson. does he think privacy or lack of privacy on the internet's might ever lead to an orwellian kind of big brother situation and 2, what does he think of the idea of cloning, especially the idea
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of human cloning. thank you again. >> guest: i want to thank you for calling me dr. johnson but one thing that happened when i started writing this book is i never finished my ph.d. so i am not dr. johnson which by -- my 99-year-old grandmother is always teasing me that i never finished that ph.d.. i have written all these books. surely i should get the credit for that. anyhow, i close -- i got distracted by that. >> host: you quote "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" and the future of privacy and technology. >> guest: it is a really important issue and what happened is we live in this interesting realm where the zone between public and private is blurrier than it used to be but even when i was a kid there were people who were celebrities or politicians who were famous and lived in public and the rest of
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us lived entirely private lives. now it is possible to put something on line and 100 people see it or a thousand people see it so we have to make choices. this is the facebook problem. what is appropriate to share? what do we enter into that public domain and what do we not? it is complicated and not easy and people make mistakes. it is the process of the a parent to walk through this with your kids and technology is advancing so quickly it is hard to keep up with the new ways we have to share. the other part of that which is what you alluded to is there is some backlash against privacy and sharing and openness of the internet and piracy and there is
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a fascinating case study of the sofa and pet but legislation to stop online piracy pact that was really the single most important attempt by the government and private corporations to rain in the decentralized major of the internet and for a long time it looked like it was going to pass and pass with tremendous bipartisan support. the one thing of the republicans and democrats did not agree on seemingly was the internet was out of control and needed to be regulated more extensively. in the early months of this year there was this tremendous online backlash that culminated in the black out of a number of big sites including wikipedia. a few days of this, the bills were dead in the water and what was fascinating about it was when the media tried to score this, you had a piece of
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legislation that looked like it was going to pass and it died. the tendency was a victory for the democrats or republicans, and in fact they couldn't figure out what to say because both parties supported it. who defeated it? it was all these people on line who felt the decentralized nature of the internet was one of the best things that happened to a single long time and we should make sure people don't mess with that and i see that almost as a silent nerd majority that lives out there. i look back and say that was the first outbreak of this year progressive -- first thing we did that got something stopped. the next way building on the success of the internet and the web. >> host: steven johnson is our "in depth" guest, author of eight books, most recently "future perfect," and the bestsellers "the ghost map" and "where good ideas come from." shirley in 'em mets burg, iowa, good afternoon. >> caller: oh, hi, folks.
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what i would like to ask mr. johnson is since we have heard very little about women being innovative in the any particular area -- in any particular area, and i'm an elderly retired businesswoman who was put out of business by foreign-owned, great big businesses who i didn't even know were my competitors because they buy up small businesses in the area and keep them on guest "future perfect: the case of progress in a networked age" and keep them on as small-business and nobody knows who owns them. and my finding, i was innovative in my business, i was in a business owned by a man, and partners and nobody ever gave me credit for being the owner of the business. >> host: what kind of business was it? >> caller: drainage material.
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drainage products. we also had a construction firm and are was the one that supplied the money to start with and i used some of the modern ways of making my business better and no matter what i did i had problems dealing with men. .. men bankers that didn't want to talk to me. >> host: i apologize, i think we got the point. let's go back to her original point, that's only the second woman who had called, and usually it's nearly 50/50. >> guest: interesting. >> host: but only the second woman that's called. >> guest: well, i think there's kind of an archive of big innovations through history at the end of where good ideas come from, and can it is heavily dominated by men. but i think that this is changing, and i think, you know, there's this interesting book out now by hannah rosen called "the end of men" which is
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talking about the kind of aseven dense of women in a lot of facets of society. and one of the points in that book is the needs of society now, um, are increasing, and the better-paying jobs, more important jobs are increasingly favoring skill sets that that women, for whatever reason, have on average more than men. and i don't want to get into a whole question of culture, nature and nurtu h >> women on average, more than men -- and i don't want to get on this whole culture of sex here.t but one of the ability is to ann network r a long time that wasn't valued in society, and so there wasn't as much of kind of positive feedback to encourage that. but now we live in a society where those kinds of network skills are increasingly important in all these different fields. and so i think we will see more is and more -- see more and more cases where there are women who are excelling in
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innovation-heavy kind of businesses, you know, it's been great to see, for instance, marisa meyer take over at yahoo! coming from google, and, you know, we see more -- even in the tech sector which is heavily dominated by men and engineering which is heavily dominated by men, we're seeing some progress in getting women into important positions in those industries. and i think that that, the new talents that these businesses are going to require, i think, will intensify that trend. >> host: herb in los angeles, thanks for holding. you are on with author steven johnson. >> guest: thank you very much. >> caller: thank you very much. great show. steven, you know, the music business on one level has been made more democratic because of the internet. and on another level it's been financially decimated by the internet. is there room for morality on the web? when the people who steal music and feel entitled to do so, and
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i would consider that one of the default prejudices you mentioned earlier. >> guest: yeah. so really interesting question. there are a couple of things about this. first off, i think that, um, you can fairly within the framework that i'm talking about, you can fairly say that just because you believe in the open flow of information and you believe that pat tents, for instance -- patents, for instance, may be excessive, that it's still okay to say that stealing music is stealing music, and that, you know, we can debate on how we kind of punish people who steal music. but there is a place for authors to be and musicians to be compensated for their work. but there is some question about how devastated the music business has been. what we have seen is the music industry and the record companies have certainly, you know, seen sales decline. but there is other evidence which we don't have time to get
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into that musicians themselves on average are doing better. and that's because they make more money from concerts because the promotional abilities and word of mouth abilities of the internet, of people sharing legally or illegally their music allows them to build up bigger careers for themselves particularly in the kind of mid list of artists. not the superstars and the folks who play in their garages, but the folks who kind of have mid level success. that part of the music sector is actually doing quite well, and there's a lot of studies that have supported that. and so, you know, if you're a record executive, the news is not good. um, if you're a, you know, a professional musician who makes a career by performing music, i think on the whole the internet has been a net positive. >> host: this e-mail comes from gerald c. jackman, ph.d., that's how he signs it. i turned off your program just now when you went through his influences. one cannot talk about progress without a grounding in the
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bible, plato, shakespeare,er is van teas and nietzsche. i read two mckind novels, and there is no profundity there. my question: how can a person whose influences have such a present-mindedness be considered important? i am one of the silent, non-twitter majority. as you might surmise, i am suspicious of people who peddle progress. i would likely be dead today except for the progress of medical science, but to repeat, progress is a moral issue, and the people mr. johnson admires don't have a grounding in philosophy or theology to address the issue of progress. in fact, i would argue that social media and its con come plant tech world are ushering in an age of ed vim. gerald c. jackman, ph.d.. >> guest: so i hear the criticism. i mean, in my particular case
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one of the best things that ever happened to me was that when i was in grad school in my 20s, i was studying 19th century novels. and really, basically, post-enlightenment philosophy. and so -- [laughter] i read more knee shi than i would like to admit, in fact. but i was really immersed, i mean, middle march was on that list of big influences. but i lived in this world conceptually when i was 23 or 24 which is that the internet was starting to break, really interesting things were happening with technology, and i would go back and forth between reading dickens and reading colbert and investigating the new networking technologies that were happening on my computer. and it was actually really generative, and this is the
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power of diverse perspectives. what was really important to me, and it echoes through all the books, is that i was going back and forth between those two domains. and part of it was the novels were 80 0-page books, and the philosophical tradition that i was reading at that time had comparable richness in the ideas and then i was looking at this new world where things were simpler, but changing so fast that it was really dynamic and interesting. and it was the play between those two worlds. so to the extent that the viewer is saying that if you get too stuck in the present, um, you won't be able to interpret the world proper hi because the president's perspective is very limited on what's happening now, they're absolutely right, that is absolutely right. um, that's not what i've tried to do, and, in fact, there was a very deliberate choice that i made after everything that is good for you came out, i'd been writing about video games, been
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very much in the present, and it was so liberating to go back and write ghost map. to go back and write a book about 19th century cholera, i didn't want to just be caught in the moment and the current conversation, i wanted to have that kind of broader historical perspective, and that's what i've tried to do. >> host: and i think maybe some of your subtitles lend itself to what you were just saying. emergence. the connected lives of abilities. and then, of course, we've got the invention of air: a story of science, faith, revolution and the birth of america. >> guest: yeah. >> host: next call comes from atlanta. charles, please, go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: thank you very much for taking the call. my question is relative to people of an older generation such as myself where we went to school at university, and if you
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didn't do well with your grammar in your history paper, you still failed the history paper. they took the full education very seriously. and as part of taking english and history, you came early to realize that the two were totally dependent upon each other and that the literature doesn't survive if you're saying too many bad things about the power. and in later on, as it turned out, i hadn't realized til later that my math scores were actually higher on the s.a.t. than english and history, and i always found it easy in the modern world to do spread sheets, other paperwork as long as i had formulas for dummies, i was fine to go. and it's a lot of the people that i worked with if they had their computers in the field and for whatever reason, they
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couldn't have access to their computers, they had an extremely hard time doing what i would think of as really very basic math. so my question is, what is the relation between people like myself who can visualize and people who are too dependent on their computers? and if they don't have them, don't really know still how to think for themselves. >> guest: well, i think, you know, there's a question about to what extent, you know, technology is augmenting our intellectual skills in a negative way in the sense of we are now dependent on the technology to solve these mental problems for us. we didn't have the technology, we would be able to do it on our own. you know, that famously is the argument that people would make about reading, once you had books, people would not need to
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actually remember anything, and storytelling was going to have the same effect. so i think we tend to overestimate the errors there. part of what i wanted to say at the beginning of what you're saying about the connections between english and history there, um, that's a very important point to make, and i try and make it every time i go back to a school when i'm talking at a college or a university somewhere which is to say that when you're in school, you have this great opportunity which is too precious to waste which is this is the one point of your life where you actually are free to make those connections between different fields. everything after you graduate even if you go on to do more school, people will try and specialize you and try to make you into an expert in one field or another. and when you're having kind of an undergraduate education, oneover the great opportunities is not just to go take your english class and your physics class, but to try and figure out the ways in which the english class is related to the history class, is related to the physics
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class and to figure out kind of intent wherive connections -- interpretive connections between all these things which is partially what my books try to do. it's such a rare opportunity to get to think that way. so i think the schools should be emphasizing that more because there are kind of sacred spaces? society for that reason. >> one of the books we haven't touched on, "mind wide open: your brain and the neuroscience of everyday life," came out in 2005, and you write on page 184 that the argument of this book has been that modern neuroscience presents i with a new grammar for understanding our minds, and with it one can be more informed and self-aware inhabitant of one's own head. >> guest: that's the only book i've written with i'm kind of the protagonist of it. because i go around and do all these experiments on my own brain in that book and try in, in a sense, instead of going to a, you know, a psychiatrist to learn about yourself, um, i went
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to a bunch of neuroscientists and brain scientists and had them do all these tests on my brain to see what i would learn, culminating in this giant elaborate experiment i did in an fmri machine. it was a fun adventure. that way of interpreting the world has actually gotten more comments. there have been a lot of books written about the kind of neuroscience of everyday life, but at the the time -- >> host: how did you pick that? kind of jacob weisberg-y -- jacob, i'm losing my train of thought here. >> guest: oh. >> host: but how did you come up -- >> guest: how did i -- well, you know, the books tend to have this property role, right? there'll be a subtheme of one book, and as i'm writing it, i'll think that theme is really interesting, i'd like to do a whole book on that. so emergence had stuff about
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brain science in it because the self-organizing systems in emergence self-organized to form higher-level behavior with, intense, consciousness, so on. so i was talking to brain scientists and reading is some of the literature, and i started to think, gosh, this is really fascinating. i wonder what my own brain would look like if i scanned it? so i went off on that adventure. >> host: david brighton in colorado, we have about 15 minutes left. [inaudible] >> host: david? [inaudible] >> host: david, i apologize, we're going to put you on hold for a second. i'm not sure your connection or mobile phone is in a good place. we could not hear you. katherine in cokier, alabama, you're on booktv. hi, katherine. >> caller: um, i was curious who was your mentor as a child since you're so inquisitive? and what role did your 99-year-old grandmother play if your life? [laughter]
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>> guest: all right. well, so i had a, i had a bunch of mentors growing up. um, but i did, i did feel, actually, it's funny, the thing i was as a kid, and i've tried to encourage this in my own kids, is, you know, i was obsessive. so i would get really into things when i was 8 or 9, and the things themselves were irrelevant. i got really into imagine, and i got into dice baseball games and golf course architecture, all these crazy things. and it wasn't so much that i learned something directly from those obsessions as a kid, but i learned what it felt like to be really locked in and, you know, curious about a topic. and so i just kind of developed that faculty. in truth, it came from my hobbies. it didn't come as much from school. and once i, you know, got older, i got interested in slightly more substantial topics. that same kind of feeling in
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your brain, that feeling of i have to know everything about that was, was kind of available to me. um, and it's kind of shaped everything that i've done since then. my grandmother, wonderfully, took me off to gallon when i was in -- london when i was in seventh grade. we took a trip to london, it was my first trip over there, and i was in a just crazy beatles phase. and i had just started listening to the beatles, and she thought she was taking me to go and look at, you know, buckingham palace and all these places, and i was like, we're going to abbey road right now. so all these pictures of us standing outside of paul mccartney's house. [laughter] but it started this lifelong love of london and the u.k. and you see, i mean, i've written disproportionately about british people, basically, in all my books. it's this very funny thing. ghost map was entirely set there, most of invex of air is in the -- invention of air is in
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the u.k. there are a lot of brits in good ideas. so she started me on that path of being a little bit of an anglo file. >> host: do you remember our friend david from eugene, oregon, who suggested the update to "in depth" in our new open source format and we forgot his first point? someone else has tweeted in his first point. the worst question was along the lines, what steps can an individual take to help advance progress. >> guest: oh, great. i'm glad we're back to that. so part of it is, um, kind of widening your network of influence which is to say you've got your job, and you've got your family. you have a kind of professional life, and you've got a personal life. but a lot of, you know, cultural progress, social progress comes from these additional kind of institutions or third spaces,
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whatever you want to call them, where people are whether they're calling in to 311 or joining some volunteer organization, and they're solving problems in their community, um, or whether they're just hobbyists getting together to work on interesting hobbies and organizing with great service like that lets people of shared interests get together face to face. and building those connections in society. because we have societies where there's those kinds of connections and people aren't just going into the office and going home and staying home, but where the society is much more kind of intermesh inside that way. that's a great sign of social health. and it's fun too. >> host: skylar johnson e-mails in to you, what are some ways that the younger audience can quickly start adopting the ideas of a pure progressive in the way they structure their lives both personally and socially? i know you say it will take a long time in the process, but i think the younger crowd in their
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20s like me will really respond positively to these ideas. >> guest: great, well, i'm glad to hear it. look, there are a lot of interesting organizations. the place where the peer progressives work is happening in the, with the most early success is in communities and neighborhoods around the country. and so in the book if you get a chance to look at it, i mention a bunch of these services that have names like neighborhood land and neighborly and see quick fix. and there are places where communities are getting together and saying, okay, here's, you know, here we are in our neighborhood here, here's a -- there's an abandoned lot here. and it's overrun with weeds, and we're not using it properly, and it's a waste of space. what should we do? let's fix it. let's come up with a solution for this particular problem in our community. let's use these tools to both identify the problem and then to come up with an inventive use for this space and then maybe fund that space, you know,
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invite contributions so we can pay the money to get this thing made. and you see projects like that kind of funneling all over the country right now, and i think the power of those things is that when you're talking about the local community level, the true experts are the people who live in those neighborhoods. it's not the people in city hall, it's not the, you know, reporters at the big city newspaper. it's the people who live in the community who understand the needs of that community. and, you know, a big part of for argument of "future perfect" is that if we can take all that on-the-ground expertise and local knowledge and amplify it and give people new tools so they can take that knowledge and put it to work, we have the opportunity to have a great renaissance in the day-to-day, lived experience of people if their communities. so it's a great time to be involved in that stuff. whether it involves technology or whether it's just people getting together face to face in their neighborhoods. >> host: now, ron in miami, you are on with author steven johnson.
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>> caller: good afternoon, gentlemen. i pose this question both to you as well as mr. peter, a friend of c-span. it has to do with the technical aspects of putting the book together. i'm trying to write a book on architecture, and i'm wondering where i can get images -- you know, purchase them for a reasonable price, of course -- where i can get images on a web site or someplace, and the other question i have has to do with the idea completion which means if i have an idea about a novel, how -- who should i go to to complete the idea in the sense of the drama and bring it, like make into a novel? i have the core idea, but i want to add color and writer's aspects to the book. >> host: all right. let's get an answer. >> guest: well, there are online photo galleries or big things, i believe it's called corbus where
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you can go and license -- >> host: getty. >> guest: yeah, the getty archives. >> host: but he also said keeply. >> guest: cheaply, that may be hard. i'm not exactly sure what the story is to that. you know, writing a book is a funny thing because on one hand it's one of the most solitary jobs in the world where you're just kind of sitting there with your computer, your typewriter. on the other hand, all of my books have been wonderful collaborations with my editors, both my official editors and then my wife is an amazing editor, and, you know, "future perfect", there were about ten folks who read it, my editor at wired read it. and having that sounding board, when i was younger as a writer i was kind of a perfectionist, and i would be, okay, all of these words are perfect. anyone who dare suggest they're in the wrong order or the wrong words is completely wrong. and the older i get, the more convinced i am that the editorial stage is really crucial to these books. and i have very little -- i
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welcome all the kind of feedback and comments and suggestions. i'm not afraid of them anymore. and so finding that, what you need is a good editor. and, you know, finding that is, is complicated, but once you find them, they're truly valuable. >> host: is new york city still central to the publishing industry? >> guest: yeah, absolutely. i think it, i think it is. it's still really based there. you know, it's gotten, actually, for me -- for my purposes it's gotten even better because technology -- the publishing industry is still very much based there. but the technology scene has gotten so good in new york city. actually, this has been a big change over the last 10 or 15 years, there's all these wonderful start-ups coming out of new york. so for someone who's a writer and interested in technology in new york, new york is a good place to be. >> host: herb called a while ago about the music industry. just spoke to you, my full question got cut off, he says, and here are his three questions. we've addressed some.
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is there morality in regards to stealing music? how would you feel if i could get your new book right now for free? and then, do you support sopa? >> guest: right. i, um, probably you could get my book for free somewhere, and i, as i said, i think that it is fine to believe that there are, you know, that, um, that people should still pay for creative work. that's different from putting everything under, you know, kind of pass protection and things like that. and so i've always been supportive of kind of, you know, my old form -- i'm not one of the people who think that digital rights management is very doctrinaire and there should never be any kind of rights management or music or books. but as i said, i think that there is a real value in terms of getting ideas and in terms of getting an author or musician's work in circulation, and sometimes that comes with the cost of additional piracy, then
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i think that's a cost as a society that we can be willing to take on. >> host: tom in kingsland, texas, please go ahead. just a couple minutes left. >> caller: yes. i'm curious if you heard of charles murray's book, "human accomplishment" the reason i'm asking is he put a stress on a sense of vocation and also a sense of autonomy, and this ties in with the earlier question about the role of faith in accomplishment. >> guest: yeah, i did -- i saw that book. i didn't read it. um, although thanks for the suggestion. i should, actually, have read that book, i suspect. i think that, you know, there is -- in my work i tend to write about the environment of accomplishment or of innovation and to say -- to try and get us outside of the kind of lone genius theory of great ideas, that someone's just incredibly
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smart and they lock themselves in the room and the bulb changes. we know from history that is almost never the case in terms of where good ideas come from and that almost always there is a specific kind of network of collaboration that helps, you know, the genius or the inventer to have his or her breakthrough. and, um, if you only emphasize the kind of solo artist and forget about that kind of collaborative network, you just -- you're misinterpreting history. and you're not going to build environments in the future that encourage the kind of thinking that we need, because you're going to be looking for those solo artists, and you're not going to build the networks that we need to really advance society. >> host: in "future perfect" i just want to conclude with that, if it's -- and if i'm mischaracterizing your thoughts, let me know. but i think i read that you say that those who believe in
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technology are optimistic about the future, and so i want your comment on that, but also go back to the privacy issue. not just legislation in congress -- >> guest: right. >> host: -- but all the information about ourselves that we're giving to private companies around the world. is there a concern there? >> guest: yes. so two things. as you said, i try in this book to make it clear that i'm, i'm optimistic, but i'm not a cyber utopian in the sense that i don't believe that technology is always the answer to everything. the language i use is to say that the internet and its success is a role model for us, but it's not necessarily the cure to all our problems. we can look at it and is say, wow, we built that together. what else could we do that would be like that? but it does create these issues, and, you know, on the one hand we can look at privacy and say, sure, these corporations know a lot more about us, but it means the ads we're seeing are
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actually more relevant to us, and we're actually not just being spammed by people, we're seeing targeted things based on our taste. on the other hand, we have to be more aware as a society, and we have to build systems that let us know where our information is being shared. so it's not that all this stuff is head anything a positive direction -- heading in a positive direction, but if we're smart about it and we're optimistic and we apply ourselves and use some of these principles, there's a lot of reason to be hopeful about what we can do. >> host: and finally, michael e-mails in, do you think that peer progressive networks will be amplified by the rapid adoption of the mobile internet in developing nations? >> guest: yes. um, because they're the places where one of the big things you have is maas i have cities being developed where you have huge needs like the kind of infrastructure feeds we talk about, and the idea that cities are going to be walking around with these mobile computers that are far more powerful than anybody's computer was 20 years ago, it's going to be a tremendous opportunity for these cities solve problems.
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just like john snowe and henry white had walking around london in 1854, they were looking for patterns in the day. but they didn't have real technology that let them notice those patterns or report them. now in these new emerging, you know, mega cities, we're going to have tremendous resources available. >> host: and we'll finish with a quote from the both map. with the exception of the earth atmosphere, the city is life's largest footprint and microbes are its smallest. it is a great testimony to the connectedness of life on earth that the fates of the largest and the tiniest life should be so closely dependent on each other. and for the past three hours we have been talking with steven onson, to have of -- johnson, author of eight books. interface culture was his first, 1999, emergence came out in '02. mind wide open in '05. the bestselli

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CSPAN October 13, 2012 9:00am-12:00pm EDT

Steven Johnson Education. (2012) Steven Johnson.

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